Alisha Bansal shatters any lingering stereotypes about the false dichotomy between beauty and brains -- and speaking of brains, she is self-described as being neither completely left-brained or right-brained but a balance of both. She is a first generation American and was born and raised in L.A. Alisha now lives in New York City. She speaks in casual, calm tones that don’t suggest she’s in her final, stressful year at the prestigious Barnard College, sister to Columbia University, as an Art History and Economics double major. However, when she does get stressed or is feeling down, she blows off steam by visiting art museums solo. Oh, and she really, really likes the color gray.
Zodiac sign: Sagittarius
South Node: Aries
North Node: Libra
West Coast or East Coast?
I’d say West Coast, but New York.
So you prefer the West Coast but New York City takes the cake?
Yes, but New York overall.
What do you love and hate about both coasts?
For the West Coast it’s just comfortable. And I can drive a car. And it doesn’t snow. but for the East Coast — Well, for New York I can walk and do anything without planning. And for love/hate about New York hmm … I love that there’s people everywhere but then at the same time, I hate that there’s people everywhere. And it’s good for people watching.
Give us a guilty pleasure that you indulge in.
Guilty pleasure … I take a lot of naps. And, when I nap it’s like a two hour nap, not a twenty minute nap. I also almost exclusively have lucid dreams.
Do you have a favorite place or conditions for your napping or can you go down anywhere?
I go -- well, since I’m in school, I’ll just go to my room.
Any noise machines or anything to help —
No nothing like that.
What do you like most about yourself?
I like to think that I’m really open-minded and that I’m really willing to try new things.
And is that something you also look for in other people?
I think that for others, that they’re really genuine. That’s what I like in other people.
How would you define success?
I would define success as doing whatever it is at that moment as well as you possibly could. So whether or not it’s something you want to be doing, it’s just that you’re doing it and doing it well.
What advice would you give your younger self?
I’d say to not take myself so seriously. And to sort of relax more. I put a lot of pressure on myself, for better or worse. I have definitely gotten better about that over time.
That’s good to hear. And where do you see yourself in 10 years? Which I know is a hard question for someone about to graduate college to answer. But dream life in 10 years?
First, I’m just trying to graduate. I’m just trying to get to May. And then, in 10 years, I don’t know, part of what comes with being a senior in college is you can sort of do anything, but at the same time feeling like you’re very limited in your options. So in 10 years, I don’t know. I could be back in L.A., I could still be here. I could have a Ph.D., I could be on a farm. I have no idea but that’s ok.
What would you want your PH. D in if you got one?
What first drew you to Art History?
I’m an Art History and Econ major because I took both of those subjects senior year of high school and I just really liked them. And then, I got into college and have been very open-minded about what to take, and I sort of ended up being those two things. Which works because I’m not 100 percent a humanities or 100 percent math-science person. So for me, it’s a nice balance.
Do you mind talking about what sort of thoughts or issues keep you up a night?
I’m actually very good at falling asleep. I’m rarely up at night. But if I am, it’s usually just because something big is happening the next day, or there’s something I’m really nervous about. It’s usually not active thinking, it’s a feeling, and like “fall asleep please Alisha.”
When’s the last time you experienced that feeling?
The classic things, first days of school or first days of work. Maybe I have like a midterm the next day — big, normal things like that.
So, why did you decide Barnard? What has your experience been like there?
I love Barnard. I mean it’s not for everyone, in that it’s not your typical college (Barnard is an all women’s college). I really didn’t expect to go to school in New York. I never really sought it out. It just sort of happened. And I think it’s really funny, because being in New York, specifically, has opened up a lot of doors for me in terms of modeling, and a lot of the art world. Just sort of being in it, versus if I had gone to another school I might not have liked art history as much because I wouldn’t have been surrounded by it and its practical applications. But, I think ending up here opened a lot of doors and a lot of random things started happening.
Which museums and galleries do you frequent?
So. I like modern contemporary art the most, and I really like museums because they’re nice, ritual-like spaces for me. If I’m ever feeling like I’m having a tough week, or feeling really overwhelmed or sort of anything like that I know I can go to a museum and go alone and just walk around. And I’ll just feel immediately better, even though I tend to go through museums really quickly. It’s not like I’m sitting in front of a painting for an hour, instead I fast-walk through it. It’s nice to have it all there. I think my favorite museum is the MoMa.
What is something you want to be asked that I haven’t already?
My favorite color!
Ha, ok. What’s your favorite color?
Why is it gray -- this sort of absence of color?
I know, it’s funny. I think partially because my mom loves gray, so I grew up seeing a lot of gray things. It’s a color I wear a lot. Also there’s so many different shades of it, so when you say gray, you can have a specific gray in mind at the moment someone asks you what’s your favorite color, it’s like you’re tricking them a little bit.
(Interview by Adriana Gallina, Photography by BB)